The Washington Nationals had always been a darkhorse in the race for top free agent Cliff Lee, but they were self-described "longshots" due to their disinclination to offer a very long-term contract. Now, it appears they are out of the chase entirely, especially after multiple teams have offered Lee the seven-year deal he desired.
According to MLB.com's Bill Ladson, the Nationals have exited the sweepstakes themselves.
The Nationals are out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, a baseball source told MLB.com on Sunday night. No reason was given as to why the left-hander passed on Washington.
We can pretty much guess that the reason is because the Nationals didn't want to give him the contract he wanted. As Ladson writes, the Nationals weren't going to give Lee a seven-year contract, whereas the Rangers and Yankees have already shown a willingness to do that. It's not too hard to connect the dots here.
The Nationals will instead turn to long-range trade targets such as Kansas City's Zach Grienke and Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. It doesn't look like the Nationals will be willing to surrender both Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, so it's unlikely a trade happens, but you never know.